Ace the Airline Test: Your Ultimate Guide to a Flying Career
If working in the airline industry is your ambition then you can consider yourself spoiled for choice.
There are multiple airlines across various countries. You can work:
- In the air as part of the cabin crew
- On the ground as a check-in desk operator, or as a baggage handler or part of the airport security team.
- You can work in the customer-centric side of things or in the more mechanical and technical side.
- You may want to work in air traffic control or you may want to pilot the planes yourself.
Most airlines operate in the same way and to relatively similar standards. Including their hiring process. If you want to work for an airline you will likely have to take some pre-employment airline tests as part of the application process.
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What is an Airline Test?
However you can expect a lot of competition for your dream job. Many people are qualified for positions in the airline industry. Therefore, airlines tend to use aptitude tests to identify the best candidates from the competition.
Airlines naturally want to employ the people who are best suited to an open position. To sift through the raft of applications they get for any advertised position they use a rigorous pre-employment testing process to find the applicants who best suit their needs.
Qualifying as a pilot or an air stewardess may be difficult but without getting through the testing process you are unlikely to land that dream job.
Can I Prepare for Airline Tests?
Before attending any pre-employment testing or interviews, preparation is essential. You need to become familiar with the tests you have to do and with the interview format.
It is advisable to use the services of a job test preparation company to ensure you perform at your optimum.
For this we recommend using Job Test Prep, a company with more than thirty years experience in preparing applicants for pre-employment testing.
They will supply you with a test prep pack giving you all the information you need for the recruitment process as well as sample test papers modelled on the real tests.
Working on the sample papers will ensure you are prepared for the real tests when asked to do them. The sample tests come with a scoring system allowing you to monitor your progress as you work from test to test.
You will also get helpful explanations for questions and answers as well as video guides.
To get an idea of the type of test they provide you with, try your hand at the following free sample Situational Judgement Test (SJT), a test you might have to do for EasyJet Airlines.
What is the Format of Airline Tests?
As stated above the tests will depend on the position you have applied for. When you apply for a job you will already have a qualification in doing the work entailed and the aviation industry will assess which applicants have the skills they specifically require through a series of psychometric tests.
For example you have qualified as a pilot through a training programme, as have many others. You apply for a job at Aer Lingus. This aviation company will require you to do cut-e spatial orientation tests, situational judgement tests and will also test your verbal and numerical abilities.
Other airlines may also require you to do inductive and abstract reasoning tests and matrix tests.
To fulfil your ambition of flying high you may also have to spend a day or more at an assessment centre taking part in group exercises and role plays. Here the company will be able to assess your leadership and teamwork skills and determine if you are a good fit for their workplace.
To prepare for the wide range of tests that pilots have to undergo, Job Test Prep supplies sample preparation tests for a range of airlines as well as an all-inclusive pack covering the full range of psychometric tests for pilots.
Numerical and Verbal Reasoning Tests
Many airline tests are aptitude tests that will involve numerical and verbal reasoning tests. Very often these tests in themselves won’t be terribly challenging. However you will have the challenge of completing the test within the time allowed and of brushing up on material you may have previously learned
Numerical reasoning tests assess your ability to work with numbers and verbal reasoning tests assess your ability to extract and train information from a written passage. All of these are skills you may already have but using those skills in an assessment can present difficulties.
Situational Judgement Tests (SJT)
Many airlines will require you to do SJTs for a variety of roles. The SJT is an assessment of how you are likely to behave in a specific workplace situation. You can expect your SJT to be connected to the role you have applied for.
The results of your SJT will reveal how well you will fit into the workplace culture. An applicant for a customer facing role, such as an air hostess or check in desk assistant may be tested on their people skills and their abilities to deal with difficult or impatient customers.
Read the following example of a customer service SJT question:
A customer calls the customer service line. He says that since he had to wait so long, he is now in a hurry and doesn’t have much time to speak. Which of the following is the most important response from the representative?
– Apologising for the long wait.
– Suggesting a better time for the customer to call when the line is less busy, so that he can talk without pressure of time.
– Proceeding at the usual pace in order to thoroughly solve the customer’s problem.
– Adjusting his conduct to the customer’s need by showing desire to complete the task quickly and effectively.
A pilot or air traffic controller may on the other hand may be tested on how capable they are of remaining calm when dealing with stressful situations in the workplace.
They may be presented with a very stressful workplace scenario and asked to choose how they would respond.
The secret to doing well on the SJT is to study the role and the company and get a mental picture of the type of behaviour expected from employees.
Then religiously practice doing sample SJTs until you feel you have dealt with every possibility.
Spatial Orientation Tests
Many airlines include spatial orientation tests in their battery of assessments. The purpose of a spatial orientation test is to judge if you have the ability to visualise 3D objects and to draw conclusions from limited information.
Results will tell the employer if you are able to visualise objects in relation to yourself, can you mentally make connections between parts of an object, can you extract an image from a cluttered background as for example in this case.
Spatial orientation questions because of how different they are present challenges for both new and seasoned job applicants. To ensure you are ready for your real spatial orientation test ensure you start practising on your sample papers well in advance of the real assessment.
Ground Handling Services
Not all roles in the aviation industry are in the sky. It takes a large number of people to assemble passengers and their baggage and to prepare a flight for take off.
All of these tasks again require staff with very specific skill sets.
Baggage has to be sorted, someone has to make decisions on the load the plane can carry and you can even work as an aircraft dispatcher.
When preparing to do assessments for these jobs read the job advertisement carefully. You will get a lot of information there on the type of employee they are looking for.
Here you can find yourself employed as part of the airport support staff. This may involve working as a terminal manager or even in air traffic control.
You could also be assigned to work as part of a team supporting officers or the people who ensure customers are supported throughout their time at the airport.
The Air Traffic Controller
Agan for some of these jobs you can expect to undergo rigorous testing. If you aspire to be an air traffic controller you will be responsible for the safety of the aircraft and the people on board.
For this position you can expect to do the ATSA, The Air Traffic Skills Assessment, a three hour test made up of seven sub-tests.
You will be tested on the following:
- Your memory skills
- Your spatial visual relation,
- Numerical abilities
- Logical reasoning skills
- Your ability to understand written information
- Your personality and if you are a good fit for the airline.
For many applicants the personality test proves to be the most challenging with many arguing they can’t change their personality. However, bear in mind that personality is judged from behaviour and it is your workplace behaviour that is coming under scrutiny.
Again as with the SJT, find out the type of personality the company likes to employ and bear that personality in mind when answering the personality test.
Try playing around with the following question from a sample personality test. You will get a better understanding of how to do the personality test by selecting each of the four answers in turn and then sitting back to decide how each answer portrays you.
Ask yourself what type of an air traffic controller you are presenting yourself as in each answer. Better still, ask yourself what type of person you would prefer to see in charge of air traffic when the flight you are sitting on is preparing for take-off!
Working in airline operations you may find yourself working as part of cabin crew looking after the wellbeing of passengers or even working in tandem with the pilot.
But there are other roles as well that may see you working with an aircraft but keeping your feet firmly on the ground. Aircraft need to be maintained and airlines run recruitment campaigns when a vacancy arises.
If you have an aircraft engineering qualification you are in a position to apply for one of those vacancies but will once again have to commit to doing a battery of tests along the lines of the tests mentioned above. Your answer again is to equip yourself with a test prep pack and to start practising.
Why is the Recruitment Process so Hard?
It is hard because the airline industry is one of the more demanding industries to work in.
The difficulty level of the process is directly related to the demands of the job you are applying to. The aptitudes required in the job you covet will naturally determine the tests you have to take. You can for example expect pilot pre-employment testing to be different to testing for customer facing roles.
The number of people wanting an aviation job also adds to the difficulty level.
The airline’s desire to outperform competing airlines means they are obliged to employ staff who show they are ideally suited to the job and means that you not alone have to meet the airline’s standards but have to rise above your fellow competitors to secure a posting.
The aviation industry is booming and promises to continue doing so.
And as it grows so will the number and variety of jobs within it continue to spiral matched by a growth in the number of job applicants.
If you are one of those prospective airline employees and want to rise above the competition you will find all the resources you need to help you here.
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
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Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.